Vishav Bharti, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, 9 February 2017. Free flights for “babas” and politicians in helicopters at the exchequer’s cost may cost dear to the Badal government, as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has written to the Department of Civil Aviation to explain the public interest behind the rides.
Sources said that following the scrutiny of the department’s records, the CAG has noticed that the department utilised the aircraft/helicopters for its VIPs, VVIPS and state-honoured guests from May 1, 2013, to January 31, 2016, without mentioning the purpose of the journey, whether it was in public interest or for personal use.
The CAG said expenditure on flights was Rs 26 crore in around three years, Rs 25 crore on hired helicopters and Rs 1 crore on the state-owned helicopter.
In its communication to the state’s Director, Civil Aviation, the CAG specified to the department that every journey by VVIPs and VIPs of the state government in the public transport should be in the public interest. It also said the utilisation of the aircraft shouldn’t be for personal purpose.
Earlier in its complaint, AAP’s RTI Cell, on which the CAG acted, had alleged that the purpose of flight in the bills as well as in the logbooks of the helicopters had been left blank.
The helicopter made 68 trips to take Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal to their native village Badal in Muktsar district and 43 trips to their farmhouse in Haryana’s Balasar village.
Besides the Badals and other members of their clan, the helicopters ferried national BJP leaders and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living.